"I can't Keep This!"

Xanadu Weyr - Thea's Weyr

This clearing is sheltered by a thick canopy of trees, which seems supported at its centre by an immense, wild-growing fellis tree. Hanging from one of its high branches is a swing, made up of two ropes and a seat of softwood and leather. The grass is tall here and interrupted in places by clusters of white and blue alyssum. Alyssum covers the indentation of the wallow, remaining hardy despite being continually crushed. The constant sound of herdbeast in their pens can be heard close-by, though its source is invisible through the foliage.

The cottage itself is made of white softwood, like birch, though creeping vines cover all four of its walls from the outside and even encircle the brown-shuttered windows and matching door. The interior floor and walls are raw wood that has been sanded and lacquered to make them smooth and, for the most part, the inside is quite spacious. The bedroom area is plain, an ornately carved wardrobe providing the only real decoration, and at the rear of the cottage a brown lattice has been built into the doorway to a makeshift kitchen, where a breakfast nook has been carved into the wall, along with short counters. On one counter, a circle has been cut out and fixed with a clay-fired bowl with a nearby matching pitcher.

Thea sits on the floor of her empty cabin with her legs drawn up, leaning with her back against the bed. Her head is bowed and her eyes are shut. She's clutching something to her chest with both hands. Through the open windows and door, winter's frigid air drifts, but she is heedless to it. The fire has gone out, leaving nothing but ashes and coldness.

"He's all grown up now," comes that rough voice from the door. "I'd ask you if you're happy with the boy that you helped raise into a man, happy with how he … turned out. But I don't think I need to." Fraille slowly staves into the room, Flop perched on her shoulder. "An empty house, Weyrwoman. You look like someone who's leaving." There's no malice in her voice. No hate or judgment. Just a simple statement of fact.

Thea's eyes clench tighter at the sound of that voice and she turns her head away. "Somehow… I'm not surprised you're here," she mutters. "And yes he is a man now. I'm… glad." Her voice, tired-sounding and devoid of emotion belies her words, but she speaks the truth. She merely nods to the Master's last with her face still averted, with a clipped, "Moving out."

Fraille sighs, staving the door closed behind her. "If it makes you feel any better…he's the way he is because of you. He'll do fine. He'll take thing slowly, but…" She slowly approaches the woman. "Maybe the world would be better if people went a little more slowly." She stops right in front of the Junior. "Do you want to talk about it?"

Thea turns to Master Fraille, tilting her head back until it rests upon the mattress so she can look up. "I… wasn't trying to 'fix' him, so I take no pleasure in that fact, to be honest," she answers finally. Her knuckles whiten in the object she holds. Talk about it? She laughs shortly, lifting it with both hands, "He- he gave me his flute!" She sounds… angry.

Master Fraille's lips thin a little at the mention of the flute. "Part of me is surprised by that, but the rest of me understands why he did." She leans down a little, hunching forward on her staff. "You give people things that are special to you so that they'll remember you, girl. And in its absence, he'll remember why he did." She raises an iron-gray brow. "Let me guess. You'd rather he didn't? You'd rather he simply left?"

Thea shakes her head, sorrow in her eyes, "No, of course not. I'd rather he didn't leave at all." Her head bows again and she fixes her eyes upon that flute. Her fingers relax as she stares at it as she says slowly, "I… think I know why he did it." She falls silent for a long moment, her fingers absently caress the instrument as she softly explains, "I told him once that… love… looks for ways to give. Not take." She lifts her head and looks Master Fraille in the eye, "I don't want to take anything from him. I… don't want him to be without this." She holds the flute up in a mute appeal for her to take it.

Master Fraille snorts. "He gave it to you. And he gave it to you because of what you taught him. Lay in the bed you've made, girl. Have you considered that he doesn't want to be without YOU? That this is his way of keeping some kind of connection?"

Thea nods, "I know," she whispers. At the Master's blunt question, she sys shortly, "I know how he feels. He told me. But he can play it and… I cannot." Her arms are still holding out the flute for her to take. "And yes, I have to… do this." Meaning move. "I would be false to turn and do anything else."

Master Fraille looks between Thea and that flute for a moment before offering, "When you first got involved with this, I asked you, I begged you to be very careful about what you did. Because it was bigger than you." One gnarled hand takes the flute from her fingers. "You still don't get it." She straightens back up with a wince and turns on the foot of her staff, starting back to the doorway out. "One of these days, you're going to have to think about the choices you're making before you make them., Weyrwoman. Feel free to come to the Hall if you ever want a lesson."

"Wait!" Thea is pushing to her feet as she says it. She winces as her body uncoils stiffly, then steps after Master Fraille. "Please?" She holds her hands out for the flute. "Help me understand," she sighs the words, "because I don't." The admission is humbly made as she drops her head to study the floor, "I thought and thought, truly I did…" Her voice trails off, then she adds, "He loves me…"

Master Fraille stops at the doorway. "Of course he loves you. You were kind to him. Helped him grow beyond himself. You're a good woman, for the most part." She holds up the flute. "This was a gift. A memento." She holds it in her hands for a moment. "It belonged to Therise," she says quietly. "It took me days to clean it up…" Her eyes raise to Thea. "Lesson one: You don't want to make things worse than they already are." She looks around the room. "And judging by the look of things, that's pretty damn awful." She looks back to the younger woman. "In another minute, I'm going to walk out of here with this flute and give it back to the Fetch. Me. Not you. Tell me what happens."

"He will be… devastated." Thea whispers through white lips in answer to Master Fraille. The rest of what the old woman his said passes right over her numbed brain. "Please don't do that? Let me keep it… for a while longer? It's killing me that he gave it to me…" She turns her head to scan the cold, empty room, "You have no idea how awful…" She rubs her face with one hand, "I was speaking of D'had." She repeats, "He… loves me."

Fraille doesn't show any signs of budging. "Give it back? So you can lay behind it, rather than facing what you've done? I think not." Instead, she raises it up to her shoulder, and Flop accepts it into her talons. "He loves you, does D'had? I have little doubt, otherwise this wouldn't be difficult. I have to assume that there's not exactly reciprocity involved, or you would have said, 'We love each other' or something like that." A pause. "In the interest of preserving some semblance of your sanity, however, what can I do to help you?"

"It is too late, you witch!" Thea hisses as she whirls and sprints from the cabin without any of her winter clothes on. She headed not back towards the Weyr proper but for the deep woods.

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